Dictionaries Online vs. Text Books – Which Ones Are Better?

Those who study foreign languages have already felt the positive impact of online dictionaries on the process of learning. Those apps have simplified everyone’s life. Nowadays, there is no need to buy expensive dictionaries and then surf hundreds of pages looking for a particular word.

However, saying goodbye to paper dictionaries means farewell to the entire era. All previous generations of translators and interpreters studied languages manually looking up the words in large books. It usually took time, but they easily memorized the word they found (otherwise, they would need to look it up again).


As for now, some students may not even have paper dictionaries. However, before technologies developed that much, a paper dictionary was the only source you could expect to get essay help for, say, Philology major. There was something romantic in the way people studied languages before. 


Apart from the big paper dictionaries, learners kept their own copybooks with the words they needed to study or use. Anyway, if we are to compare dictionaries online with textbooks, here are a few reasons why electronic dictionaries are better.

They Save Your Time

This is what we have started with. You do not have to navigate through the pages. Instead, you can type the word or even the word combination you seek and get an immediate result.


At the same time, text dictionaries provided you with an opportunity to find other interesting words along the way to the needed one.


They Provide Extra Convenience


To issue a good and comprehensive paper dictionary, publishers usually choose a tiny font. The problem is that to include most of the words that are in use, they need to utilize every white space they have.


The book is too big, inevitably. This makes it even harder to concentrate and find the needed word. To look something up in such a dictionary, one needed to develop special skills!


In the case of dictionaries online, you need to type the word you look up, and you immediately get the result in an enjoyable form (sometimes, even with an accompanying audio pronunciation).


They Provide You with a Choice


You can type your word in several online dictionaries, and you will get a slightly different translation or its modification. These differences can be adapted to your particular case in the best possible way.


A paper dictionary provides you with one or several most common options, and that makes it hard to maneuver with the translation.


They Are Everywhere Wherever There Is Internet Connection


Dictionaries online win many times because they can be easily found wherever you go. You need to have your smartphone and the Internet to find the right word and its translation. In the case of big paper dictionaries, you can use them only if they are with you at a lesson. 


You cannot look up for the word you forgot in any emergency situation as well.


However, there are many positive moments in having paper dictionaries as well.


No Ads


The most apparent benefit of textbooks as dictionaries is that there is no distraction. When you look for the word, there is no information coming sideways that will distract you from getting the main message. 


In the case of dictionaries online, you will stumble across many unrelated ads before you actually get the needed information.




In order to memorize better, paper dictionaries often support the most difficult or interesting words with illustrations. You can build a strong association and memorize the word that is harder to do if you are just grasping its translation online.


Online dictionaries usually have no illustrations related to the words and word combinations. They serve as depositaries of words while paper dictionaries serve as a wonderful journey to knowledge.


Density of Knowledge


When you take the paper dictionary from the shelf, you can feel the heaviness of knowledge of several dozens of people who worked on it. They have completed a tremendous job: they looked up every word and selected the best translation to share with you.


From this perspective, an online dictionary is something you imagine as a code or a machine. It is not tangible or impersonated. Moreover, the knowledge they have is usually based on the information kept in paper dictionaries.


Random Lookup


Modern dictionaries online have developed a function like “a word of the day” or similar. However, it still does not have the same effect as a random lookup in a paper dictionary. 

The beauty of the new word combined with the unexpected simplicity of its translation is something we will miss if paper dictionaries disappear.


Final Words


Both dictionaries online and textbooks have their own advantages and disadvantages. The truth is always in the middle, so we should use both options depending on the time and place. 


Do not deprive yourself of a feeling of the sheer density of knowledge when you open a paper dictionary as well as of the convenience and time efficiency of an online dictionary. In the end, we do have a choice.